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Lights out around the world honor Earth Hour

For an hour Saturday, millions of people and thousands of businesses around the world shut off their lights in recognition of Earth Hour.

Landmarks around the world went dark for the hour: the Space Needle, Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House, Empire State Building and more. The lights at one Spokane landmark, the Riverfront Park Pavilion, were shut off for the hour, which began at 8:30 p.m.

Mayor Mary Verner encouraged Spokane businesses and residents to participate. Embracing renewable energy, she said, could boost the local economy.

“In the state and nation, Spokane increasingly is recognized as a leading clean-energy city,” Verner said in a news release. “We continue to focus on ways to save energy, save taxpayer money, and help create jobs in the growing clean and green economic sector. This is part of our work to help our private-sector economy grow in 2011.”

Another Spokane landmark also went dark Saturday night. Avista Utilities shut down the lights on the big, green Washington Water Power sign at the Post Street Substation downtown.

“We’re a green utility,” said Communication Manager Jessie Wuerst. “This is one way, in cooperation with the city and other businesses, that we can demonstrate that.”

Earth Hour, which is organized by the World Wildlife Fund, began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007. In its inaugural year, about 2,000 businesses and 2.2 million individuals participated, the group says. Participation has since spread around the world.

Although dimming the lights for one hour one day a year might not make a big impact alone – there are 8,760 hours in a common year – organizers say it brings attention to environmental issues such as global warming and encourages people to take responsibility for the impact of their actions.

The hope is that the symbolic act will raise awareness and translate into people’s everyday lives, said Evita Krislock, secretary of the Faith & Environment Network, which hosted an event in recognition of Earth Hour at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Spokane’s South Hill.

“Part of the message of Earth Hour is to stand with people all over the globe and say ‘The Earth matters,’ ” she said. “Every single thing we do has a consequence.”